NPR

After Grim Deaths In The Borderlands, An Effort To Find Out Who Migrants Were

More than 200 migrants die attempting to cross the Southwest border each year. Slowly, scientists at a Texas laboratory are seeking the story of their bones.
The team measures and documents bones of the body as part of intake OPID 699, which was one of 16 human remains exhumed at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Brooks County in January. Operation Identification's goal is to identify and repatriate unidentified human remains that were found in the South Texas borderlands. Source: Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Editor's note: This story contains descriptions and photos of human remains that some readers may find disturbing.

Border Patrol agents steer their all-terrain buggy through dense brush on the historic King Ranch. They're looking for a human skeleton.

They spotted bones earlier in the day when they were chasing a group of migrants through this pasture, and they marked the GPS coordinates. Now they're returning with a sheriff's deputy.

Then they find the remains, next to a patch of orange wildflowers, in the shade of a mesquite tree. The bones have been scattered asunder — some vertebrae, part of the pelvis, the jaw.

"The animals get to them, and they just tear 'em apart," says Deputy Bianca Mora with the Brooks County Sheriff's Office.

The discovery of the bones this month is a grim reminder of an aspect of illegal immigration that is often overlooked these days, with the Trump administration focused every day.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR7 min read
How Georgia Became A Surprising Bright Spot In The U.S. Solar Industry
Solar is booming in Georgia, and it's not because of state mandates supporting renewable energy or concerns about climate change. Instead, powerful market forces are driving the growth.
NPR2 min read
Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban On Trademarking 'Immoral,' 'Scandalous' Words, Symbols
The decision paves the way for a clothing line, FUCT, to get its trademark. But the justices were split on how far is too far and which words they would find to be the most vulgar and profane.
NPR6 min readPolitics
U.S. Mideast Plan Rejected By Palestinian Leaders, Panned By Former U.S. Envoys
The White House unveiled its economic peace proposal for Palestinians on Saturday: $50 billion for Palestinians and countries in the region. It isn't clear who would contribute the funding.